You visit Rome for ancient Italy, Venice for old Italy, and Milan for the new. Milan’s Porta Nuova district is the richest in Europe and the city is at the forefront of fashion and design trends.
It probably seems like an ideal place to build a career. But what if you’re planning a trip to Milan? Is it worth visiting instead of other Northern Italian cities like Venice and Florence?
Absolutely! Florence might be the epicenter of renaissance art in Europe but there’s plenty in Milan too. The Church of Santa Maria Delle Grazie is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is home to Leonardo di Vinci’s The Last Supper. Venice may have St Mark’s Basilica, but Milan can boast the largest cathedral in the country.
There are plenty of other activities, like shopping in beautiful boutiques and partaking in aperitivo, that are uniquely Milanese experiences.
This ultimate Milan travel guide will show you all the most beautiful places in Milan, what to expect when visiting, where to stay in Milan and things to do in Milan which will help you in planning a trip to Milan.
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How To Get to Milan
Milan has three international airports: Malpensa, Linate, and Bergamo. If you’re flying via a low-cost airline like Ryanair, you may arrive at Bergamo instead of the others.
American Airlines and British Airways both offer direct flights to Milan from the US. And for travelers heading to Milan from the east, you can travel there via one stopover in Dubai or Istanbul on Emirates or Pegasus Airlines.
You can travel to Milan from mainland Europe via France’s high-speed TGV service or many others. Within Italy, you can hop on one of the country’s Trenitalia services. One-way train tickets from Venice to Milan only cost around €15.
You could make even bigger savings by booking a FlixBus to Milan. These travel directly to Milan from almost every major European city such as Paris, Frankfurt, and Rome. Unfortunately, Milan is landlocked so boats aren’t much of an option!
What To Expect in Milan
Milan is a relatively safe city for tourists, similar to Paris or Berlin. This Milan travel guide would be remiss if it didn’t mention that petty crime such as pickpocketing does happen in busy areas.
Like the rest of Italy, Milan’s currency is the euro. You can use both cash and card in most supermarkets, restaurants, and attractions.
Contactless payments are only getting more and more commonplace so it would be wise to bring a travel card. Tipping isn’t expected, less so in bars and cafes than in restaurants, but it is always appreciated. There may not be an option to tip via card so bring cash when you want to show your gratitude for good service.
Milan is a fashionable city so pack your best threads! But it is one of the rainiest cities in Italy so put an umbrella and waterproof coat in your suitcase too.
How to Get Around Milan
Milan’s metros and trams are quick and cover most of the city so they should be your first choices. Buses do exist but Milan is famous for its historic and efficient trams.
Most public transport options only run between six in the morning to midnight so plan ahead if you want to travel on a night service. Buy your ticket from the self-service machines before traveling.
Single tickets are extremely cheap and unlimited 24-hour tickets cost less than €10 across all transport options. Three-day tickets offer even better value at around €15. Single tickets are valid for 90 minutes and during that time you can use as many different forms of public transport as you like.
Taxis are expensive in Milan and you can expect a surcharge in the evening. Milan also has Uber but you may find you can walk between most of the city’s main attractions.
The Best Time to Visit Milan
Though Milan doesn’t suffer the sky-high temperatures of Southern Italy, it still has a Mediterranean climate. If you visit in summer, expect sizzling heat, lots of crowds, and high accommodation and flight prices.
December isn’t a bad time to visit if you don’t mind cold weather and you’re traveling on a budget. But the shoulder seasons of April to May and September to October are the best times to visit Milan on a city break. Prices are slightly cheaper than in July and August and the weather is much more pleasant.
Keep in mind that Milan Fashion Week usually falls in September. This is one of the busiest events on Milan’s calendar so if you prefer to stay in luxury hotels, these might be booked up. Milan’s Design Week is in April and this is also a popular industry event.
Things To Do in Milan
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
One of the best things to do in the city that should be on any guide to Milan is the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. Built between 1865 and 1877, it’s essentially one of the most ornate and stunning shopping malls in the world.
You’ll find two separate structures separated by a walkway with an impressive glass and iron dome for the ceiling.
Most of the shops are designer brands like Prada and Gucci and independent luxury boutiques. But you will also find some restaurants, bars, and more inexpensive places to shop if you keep your eyes peeled.
The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is super close to the Teatro Alla Scala and Duomo so there’s no reason not to at least walk through and admire the glittering mosaiced central dome.
Santa Maria Delle Grazie
What’s a trip to Italy without visiting a church or two? Santa Maria Delle Grazie is a convent dating back to the 15th century and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Though the church is beautiful, the main reason why it has that accolade is that it houses The Last Supper painting by Leonardo di Vinci on its refectory wall.
Don’t miss out on seeing one of the most famous murals in the world and book your tickets in advance.
They’re only released a few months beforehand so keep checking the website. You can only book combi tickets alongside another museum or attraction (like visiting the Duomo rooftop). Make sure you don’t accidentally book tickets for the same attraction twice.
Teatro Alla Scala
If you’re packing your best outfits to visit Milan anyway, you may as well wear them somewhere fancy! The Teatro Alla Scala is Milan’s premier opera house dating back to the late 18th century.
It’s one of the best opera houses in the world and hosts operatic, ballet, and other musical concerts.
The main opera season runs from December to July but they perform some ad hoc concerts in the other months too.
Tickets cost anywhere between €15 and €250 depending on the location of the seats and visibility. The Teatro Alla Scala also runs tours but you should book ahead as they don’t run every day.
Duomo di Milano
The Duomo is one of the top places to visit in Milan and the country’s largest church. For a country with hundreds if not thousands of churches, that’s an impressive achievement!
Parts of the cathedral date back to 1386 but the bulk of its architectural style is Gothic and Renaissance because it took over 600 years to complete.
The Duomo’s exterior and interior are both beautiful but the building’s pièce de résistance is the view from the rooftop. You can either climb the 250 steps to the top or take the lift!
Sitting on the edge of Milan’s historic center is Sforzesco Castle, a historic fortress dating back to the 15th century. It used to be one of the largest citadels in Europe but now it houses several museums.
One of the most popular museums for tourists to visit is the art museum as it displays works by Da Vinci and Michelangelo.
Nothing beats Venice’s Grand Canal, but visiting the Darsena Canal in the Navigli district should be on your list of things to do in Milan.
It’s a beautiful area to visit at sunset with bars and restaurants flanking the canal on either side.
What To Eat in Milan
Everyone knows that Italy is the birthplace of pizza, pasta, gelato, and prosecco. But every region has specific dishes that they created. Milan is in the Lombardy region and it is no different.
Risotto and polenta-based dishes are local to this region, as are veal, gorgonzola cheese, and tortellini de zucca (pasta stuffed with pumpkin and candied fruits). For dessert, try panettone which is a traditional Italian Christmas cake.
Aperitivo is a huge deal in Northern Italy too. This is a pre-meal drink (often a cocktail or small glass of wine) to stimulate your appetite before dinner. It’s often served with a few nibbles like olives, cheese, and bruschetta.
Where To Stay in Milan
Budget – If you’ve visited other Italian cities before, the prices of accommodation in Milan may shock you. It doesn’t matter when you visit, expect to spend a fair chunk of your budget on where you stay!
So if you normally stay in cheap guesthouses, you might be looking at a bed in a hostel dorm instead. Lucky for you, the Madama Hostel & Bistrot is a friendly place to stay with free breakfast close to the train station.
But if you like your privacy, consider Ostelzzz instead. It’s a capsule hostel with a self-contained bed and storage area. Not ideal for solo travelers looking to make friends but perfect if you have an early-morning flight and need to get some shut-eye.
Mid Range – Starting from around €90 per night, LaFlavia Milano is a cozy, intimate B&B with comfortable beds and tasteful vintage decor.
They even have an outdoor terrace where you can enjoy your morning espresso. If you prefer boutique hotels then NH Milano Palazzo Moscova is ideal. Their rates start from around €150 a night and this former palazzo is in an ideal location close to Central Station.
Luxury – You could spend the entire GDP of a small country on a few nights in Milan if you had the means. There’s no shortage of opulence in this city! One of the more reasonably priced luxury hotels (with rates starting from around €275) is the Senato Hotel Milano.
It’s a modern, boutique hotel with monochrome decor near all the designer shopping streets. For more traditional decor, the Park Hyatt Milan is an institution. You can book a night’s stay for around €700 but for that, you get views of the Duomo and large marble bathrooms.
Tours To Do in Milan
Aperitivo and Street Food Tour
Like tapas, it’s getting more and more difficult to find authentic aperitivo these days. And when you’re only staying in a city for a few days it’s essential to know where the best spots are ASAP. That’s why booking a place on a tour is a great idea because a local has already done the hard work for you.
On this tour, you will sample local wines, cocktails, cheeses, meats and so much more. You will also learn about the history of aperitivo and its place in modern-day Milan.
Milan is one of the biggest cities in Italy. While you can still learn about the city and see a lot of landmarks on a walking tour and by taking public transport, a bicycle tour is the best (and most fun!) way to see the city.
It’s an incredibly flat city and many locals cycle their commute so you’ll be getting an authentic Milanese experience too.
On this tour, you will be able to see all the main landmarks such as the Duomo, Castello Sforzesco, and the canals. Your knowledgeable guide will share the history of each location and will no doubt be on hand to snap photos of you too!
Fashion and Design Tour
You will know by now that two of Milan’s most significant industries are fashion and design. If you want to pick up some souvenirs but aren’t sure where to find them, book a tour with a guide that does.
You’ll visit lots of artisan boutiques and designer stores all the while learning about the history of these industries in Milan. You’ll learn what fashions and styles the Milanese love and view the city through a creative lens.
Day Trips From Milan
Milan and the lakes go together like tomatoes and mozzarella. You can’t have one without the other! And the small lakeside town of Bellagio is only a 90-minute drive from Milan so it’s a fantastic choice for a day trip.
In the summer, you can take a scenic cruise on Lake Como and attempt to spot George Clooney sipping his morning coffee on his terrace if you’re lucky. Failing that, you can wander around the shops and cafes.
And if you take this day tour during the winter, you can take the funicular up Brunate and witness the idyllic snow-capped vistas of the Alps.
Want to take a more “off the beaten path” day trip? Brescia’s a great choice. It’s home to one of the seven Longobards UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the Basilica of San Salvatore.
These unique buildings date back to the transition in history between antiquity to the middle ages and the basilica is well worth a visit.
You can also visit Victoria Square, Loggia Square, Duomo, and the Castle. It’s a much smaller city than Milan so you can wander the streets and sample aperitivo without battling through crowds.
Verona and Lake Garda
If you’re short on time, you might not be able to spend a few nights in Milan, a night on Lake Garda, and a few nights in Verona. But why should you miss out?! Booking a place on this day tour to Verona and Lake Garda is the next best thing!
Verona is a two-hour drive from Milan so you’re in for a long day but it will be worth it. Explore the gorgeous town of Sirmione on the banks of Lake Garda, the largest lake in the country.
In Verona, follow in the footsteps of the famous star-crossed lovers at Juliet’s House and Juliet’s Tomb. Climb up to Castel San Pietro for beautiful views across the whole city.
Recommended tours in Milan
- Historic Milan Tour with Skip-the-Line Last Supper Ticket
- Best of Milan Experience Including Da Vinci’s The Last Supper and Milan Duomo
- Highlights and hidden gems of Milan Bike Tour
- The secrets to learn fresh pasta and tiramisù
- Bernina Express tour, Swiss alps & St Moritz. With 8 pick up points
- Best Street Food Walking Tour
- Vintage Fiat 500 Tour in Milan
- Highlights of Milan with a Local
- Lake Como, Bellagio And Varenna – 1h private boat cruise included
- Milan Fashion Tour